The Reentry Project
The Reentry Project is managed by a steering committee of formerly incarcerated women and men, service providers, educators and advocates, assisted by Senior Community Organizer Rachel Ramirez. It addresses barriers to community reentry, with a focus on improving access to housing and employment.
The Reentry Project Committee designed a housing pilot project so that the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) would allow select service providers to certify a small group of high-performing clients as qualifying for immediate access to subsidized housing.
In March 2014, Mayor Emanuel and then-CHA Director Michael Merchant, announced that they endorse the Chicago pilot, renamed the Family Reunification Pilot. HACC adopted the pilot in August 2014, effective in 133 suburbs, while the CHA Board voted to adopt the city-based pilot in November 2014.
Instead of imposing a five-year wait, the housing authorities will allow certified ex-offenders to rejoin family living in public or subsidized housing, or access their own unit if their name is called off an authority’s long waitlist. Each three-year pilot will assist up to 50 ex-offenders. CCH profiled the first person to access housing through the pilots.
The Reentry Project also pursues initiatives to allow ex-offenders to access job opportunities. In 2015, our leaders worked for the passage of House Bill 494. The job-access bill would allow non-violent ex-offenders to be employed in Illinois schools, after a 7-year wait. The measure passed the General Assembly, but after a “technical veto” by Gov. Rauner, it will be reintroduced in the 2016 session.
In its 2010 study, Barred from Housing, the Reentry Committee asked the CHA to end its automatic rejection of applicants who were on probation less than five years. Instead, CHA was asked to inform applicants that there is an appeal process available, and allow those who are denied to present a case that they have changed their lives. By 2013, the CHA adopted this appeals process, and CCH began to advocate the housing pilots.
The Reentry Project receives project-based grant support from The William R. Johnson Family Foundation.